Keeping Social Networking Safe

By Catherine Potts | Jan 31, 2008
More Articles by Catherine

Social networking is now apart of everyday life in the online world some on the up and up, some not. If you’re online, and not a member of at least one social networking site, you’re missing out. But what are you missing out on?

From Sphinn to Facebook to RSS feeds, it’s only beneficial to be connected. These days some argue that one can be too connected. The positives far out weigh the negatives. That is unless you encounter a new problem with sex offenders having yet another avenue with which to victimize.

Jordan McCollum mentioned in a brief post on Marketing Pilgrim that the legislature in New York is considering a law (Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act) to keep sex offenders off social networking sites. I’m not really sure how they could ever keep ahead of the offenders registering new user IDs and email addresses but I guess any attempt at discouraging a predator is a good one, eh?

Online Media Daily:

“The new bill, announced by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, also would require that sex offenders convicted of the most serious crimes be banned from using social networking sites or using the Web to communicate with people under age 18 as a condition of probation or parole.”Similar bills are pending in other jurisdictions, but some critics doubt they will work.

According to the article, other states have gone so far as to try and limit or, to an effect, prohibit usage of any device capable of getting online. The question is: is that really the answer? I’m not sure how, with the internet so accessible these days how you could ever really govern over the internet usage by an offender? I could go out and create any number of email addresses or instant messenger IDs in a very short span of time. I suppose if it’s going to happen, having some sort of governance over a convicted predator is always better than not.

Enforceability is obviously the biggest difficulty. The bill would provide instant messenger user IDs and email addresses to social networking sites (like Sphinn, Facebook, MySpace etc…) in the interest of preventing them from creating profiles.

Eric Goldman, who is the director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law stated:

“When the Internet is everywhere, there is no way to ‘wall off’ the Internet and stop using it. The Internet can be accessed through computers, of course, but it’s also accessed through cellphones, handheld devices and smart appliances–all of which are seemingly potentially off-limits under this law.”

In an age when social networking has become a must in the online business world, it’s no surprise that someone would use it to potentially hurt someone else. I’m glad to see such proactive actions associated with this new and booming area of the internet. MySpace has agreements with 45 states in order to address the online predator problem.

Mashable Social Networking News:

I understand that MySpace and other social networks have to play ball in the PR world, but one wonders what it’ll take to actually cause folks in law enforcement and government to get real about the dangers of social networks, and admit the fact that the dangers aren’t really more prominent online than in the real world.

Andrew commented on Mashable’s article:

As someone that runs the business side of things for a growing social network site catering to young teens, I can tell you that if you spend a day or two moderating the community, you will see how dangerous these sites can be.

It’s the ongoing diligence of the entire community that keeps social networking a mostly positive and valuable tool for businesses, people and the younger, more vulnerable online users. The internet has to be collectively policed by all of us.

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